Cries and Whispers / Viskningar och rop

  • Director: Ingmar Bergman
  • Released: 1972
  • Writers: Ingmar Bergman
  • Featured Actors: Harriet Anderson, Liv Ullmann, Kari Sylwan

Story: Agnes is dying. Sisters Karin & Maria return to care for her w/ Anna, a servant.

Narration: Memories & Reflections…structure similar to Wild Strawberries…Bergman returns to his 1950’s structure and theme…drama of re-birth, along with religious immanentism of that period, new life…no questions of God’s existence – But fundamental concepts & images of Christ’s passion & communion meal are chief metaphors

Setting: turn of the century (1900) – it’s a film trying to recall something said long ago, that may now be lost

Structure: Like Seventh Seal, Cries & Whispers is an allegory or a morality play


      • 3 episodes or insets
      • First & Last – Agnes’ voice accompanied by scenes from the past
      • Intro: fade to white, ends w/ red frame

Sisters & Anna:

  • Intro and close w/ red frame

Place 2 parts together and a whole is formed, a person (soul) who experiences the portrait (like Borg in Wild Strawberries) – confronting the self

Each story = self confrontation, story of humiliation & abandonment, moral disgust, failure, shame = turning away or turning toward…turn a loving eye or turn away = second chance w/ Agnes’s agony = opportunity to heal & repair

Agnes: figure of Christ – name means “one who is pure of unblemished” — Agnus Dei = sacrificial lamb


Bergman, “I have pictured the inside of the soul as a moist membrane in shades of red.”

An abstract visual poem.”

  • Colors are a code
  • Sisters and Anna dressed in white, blue, or black
  • Agnes in red or white
  • Outside is yellow, green, hazy blue
  • Inside red everywhere – wine & blood too
  • The aesthetics overlay joy in contradiction to the suffering and desolation, the vitality of color resists the spiritual despair and presents hope…it exemplifies Agnes’ vision of compassion and gratitude
  • The body as a house for the soul (red = house)
  • Four characters loosely represent aspects of the human being

Karin = self awareness & guilt & rational control

Maria = sensuality & self-deception & emotion

Anna = physical ministering & secretiveness

Agnes = reflection & appreciation & faith


  • Communion
  • Abandonment
  • Humiliation
  • Hope
  • Turning Toward/Turning Away
  • Memory


  • How does Bergman show that the only one who can die for one’s sins is oneself?
  • How does one deal w/ failed communion, despair, and passion?
  • Why does Bergman place Bach over the conversation between Maria & Karin, when they seem to be ‘turning toward’ each other?
  • What item, not taken by Karin & Maria as they leave, could offer them hope?
  • What is the twelfth night?